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Vikings' Zimmer calls report that Griffen won't return soon 'false'

ST. PAUL — Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on Thursday called an ESPN report "false" that defensive end Everson Griffen won't return to the team "anytime soon,'' but declined to speculate on when he might be back.

Griffen, who is dealing with a mental-health issue, will miss his fourth straight game Sunday against Arizona at U.S. Bank Stadium.

ESPN reported last Sunday that a league source said Griffen is not expected to return "anytime soon."

"I saw the report and I think it was false,'' Zimmer said.

The report also quoted another source as saying Griffen "could be back next week or could never play again; you just don't know when it comes to mental health."

The defensive end has made three straight Pro Bowls.

"Right now, we're just trying to win," said nose tackle Linval Joseph. "We're trying to just hold it together until he gets back. He's part of this team and we can't wait to get him back."

Rudolph defends play

Kyle Rudolph is not thrilled when his ability to gain yards after the catch is questioned.

An apparent Vikings fan wrote this week on Twitter he was "very concerned'' with Rudolph's "lack of YAC" because he has "very heavy feet and hates contact" and "takes too long to turn up field.''

Vikings football communications manager Sam Newton tweeted to the fan that there was "no need to be concerned" because nearly half of Rudolph's yards this season (113 of 229) have come after the catch and his average of 4.9 YAC is eighth among NFL tight ends and higher than the 3.7 put up so far by Philadelphia Pro Bowler Zach Ertz.

Rudolph responded to Newton's tweet, writing, "Haters will say it's fake.''

"It's kind of been the perception here for awhile but the numbers are what they are,'' Rudolph said Thursday about his ability to gain yards after the catch.

The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Rudolph is third on the Vikings with 23 receptions. He is on pace for 75 catches, which would be the second-most of his eight-year career.

"I'm not the fastest guy in the world; I'm not the most elusive guy in the world," Rudolph said. "When I get the ball in my hands, if it's third down, I'm trying to do everything I can to get to the sticks."

Thielen shrugs off receiving lead

Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen has taken over the NFL receiving lead. He could care less.

Thielen has 47 receptions for 589 yards. He has one catch more than New Orleans wide receiver Michael Thomas.

"I don't really care," Thielen said. "Just trying to win the day because if you starting thinking about that stuff, you can lose your game real quick. ... Obviously, if you lead the NFL in receiving and you're not winning games, it's not a fun business to be in. It doesn't really matter what your stats are, it matters the wins and loss column and obviously (at 2-2-1) we got to get better in that area."

Briefly

• Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has plenty of confidence in kicker Dan Bailey despite his misses last Sunday at Philadelphia of field goals from 28 and 45 yards. Bailey did make a key 52-yard attempt late in the game, and is 6 of 8 since signing Sept. 18 with Minnesota. "The guy's a pro. ... He's very focused and he just came back and he stroked it (on the 52-yarder)," Priefer said.

• Hall of fame defensive end Chris Doleman, who is recovering from brain cancer and had surgery last January, will sound the Gjallarhorn prior to Sunday's game. It will be the second game Doleman has attended this season at U.S. Bank Stadium. The NFL this month is partnering with the American Cancer Society to fight cancer with the "Crucial Catch" program.